School Safety Recommendations Include Visitor Notification Systems, More Lockdown Drills
Superintendent Daniel Nerad listed his administration's plans for upping security at all Birmingham school buildings during the Tuesday night school board meeting.
New ways to monitor visitors at Birmingham's school buildings, as well as more lockdown drills for students and teachers, may soon be on the way for the students and staff at Birmingham Public Schools.
Both recommendations were part of a new Safe Schools report presented to the Birmingham Board of Education Tuesday night.
The report was crafted by Superintendent Daniel Nerad and Deputy Superintendent Paul DeAngelis, both of who have been studying the district's security policies after the elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT.
"This is a conversation that this community needs to have," Nerad said. "The goal is to ensure the greatest safety for our children."
On Tuesday night, school board members took a look at the district's plans for improving security in the long term. According to Nerad and DeAngelis, the plan has three sections: first, evaluate and update Birmingham's security policies and guidelines. The same will be done for the protocol administrators and teachers follow during a crisis situation.
The final part of the plan, Nerad said, involves taking a closer look at the district's character education program, including anti-bullying policies and ways to work with community youth organizations so that students are empowered to make the right decisions as they grow up.
Nerad said many of the administration's decisions regarding school safety have meet with some resistence — especially the decision to temporarily place unarmed security guards in every building — but he doesn't apologize for starting the process.
"I do realize that this entire conversation ... has created, at times, its own anxiety," Nerad said. "(But) while Sandy Hook remains vivid in our minds, there have been additional violence in (America's) schools. I want to make it clear that those incidents have compelled us to look at our current practices."
School board members did not vote to approve any of the recommendations Tuesday night. The plan will return to the board during a special meeting on Feb. 26 for approval. Until then, the district will continue to gather input from students, staff and parents.
Proposed plan involves rules for guns in schools, changing physical layout of schools
So what does the proposed security plan actually involve? According to Nerad and DeAngelis, the recommendations include everything from guns in schools to finding ways to automatically lock a school's interior doors.
Under the proposed plan:
- The district would install "visitor notification systems" — such as the one being tested at Pierce Elementary — at all school buildings. These systems, which would cost the district around $150,000, would include cameras, an intercom system and buzzers. These systems would replace the security guards currently stationed at schools' main entrances.
- The front doors of all school buildings will remain locked, a measure implemented in mid-January. DeAngelis said the district also will look into ways to quickly and automatically lock interior doors. Keyless entry systems would also be installed to allow teachers easy access to the building during the day.
- A school would go into lockdown any time someone determines there is a gun on the property, at which point police would be brought in. District policy currently bans most guns on school grounds, though a recent incident involving a parent carrying a concealed weapon threw that policy in the spotlight.
- Schools would have to complete more lockdown drills — between four and six — each year, with police presence at each one. "The more you practice this, the better," DeAngelis said. Lockdown drills would include locking down the perimeter of each school building.
- DeAngelis said the district is looking at ways to change the physical layout of school buildings, including creating "welcome areas" near front doors that would allow the building to be quickly secured.
- The district is looking to improve communication plans during crisis situations, between teachers, building principals, administrators and parents. "We'll make sure our communication plan becomes a model for our community and maybe for others," DeAngelis said.
- Nerad said he also wants to look at ways to sharpen character education programs, including evaluating anti-bullying policies, hiring elementary school counselors and working with youth organizations in the Birmingham community. "We can not do this alone to be effective," he said.
Until the Feb. 26 meeting, Nerad said the district is seeking input from the community. Anyone looking to participate should email DeAngelis at firstname.lastname@example.org, putting "Safe Schools" in the subject line.
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- Birmingham Schools Will Start Locking Front Doors During the Day
- 'We Owe It to Our Children': Birmingham Superintendent Vows to Review Safety Rules
- Birmingham Schools to Increase Security Monday After Connecticut Shooting
- Birmingham Superintendent: Shooting Reminds Us 'Our Children Are Precious'
What do you think of the proposed safety plan? Do you think they're good ideas or is the district overreacting?